Since attending the Paralympic Games that took place in London, 2012, I have always been encouraged and inspired by paralympians. Over the last month, it was a real privilege to watch the Winter Paralympic games in South Korea and be amazed at the courage, ingenuity and fitness of athletes who, with the physical challenges they face, are able to achieve feats about which most of us, who do not face such challenges, can only dream. In order to achieve what they have, they have had to look into the face of some devastating limitations, injuries and circumstances yet not be overwhelmed by them but rather see beyond them. After the London games, one athlete who had been severely disabled as a result of an accident, was asked if he had rather that the accident which had injured him had not happened. After a few moments thought, he said that he would not change anything. He had discovered life in places and people he would not expect to find it.
Over Good Friday and Easter, Christians throughout the world focus on Jesus Christ who faced some of the worst things that can happen to a person. Despite Jesus Christ’s love and commitment to his friends and followers, he was betrayed by a close follower, deserted in his hour of need by those he regarded as good friends and the person closest to him pretended he didn’t know him. He was arrested in the quiet of night, quickly tried, then executed in the most painful way imaginable and placed, without ceremony, in a tomb. From the moment of his arrest to his burial was less than twenty-four hours. His followers were devastated with his passing and ashamed of what they had done. The hope and dream that they had followed had come to nothing.
But this was not the end of the story. Three days later, new life appeared in the person and place where previously there had been death and the end of hope. When some women went to the tomb of Jesus to complete the burial rites, St. Luke’s Gospel relates that the terrified women, unable to find the body, were greeted with the words, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’
Jesus’ followers came to realise that God was telling them that fullness of life could not ultimately be overwhelmed nor overcome by anything that the world could throw at it – not even by death. No matter what happens to us, nothing is beyond the reach of God. In these events, God was pointing to something which was a mystery and even more radical, namely that the life that emerged after facing the worst could be richer and fuller than it was before. This does not take away pain, suffering, shame and injustice, all of which need to be faced and challenged, but it points to something beyond. Many paralympians have learnt this. A violin-maker shed some light on this when he told me that if a violin was broken, a good violin-maker could repair it and it would make a better sound than before it was broken.
From Good Friday through to Easter are the most important days for Christians because they focus what the Christian faith is about. They are the seed-bed for hope and new possibilities. When as human beings, as members of the Church and as citizens of the world we face and ponder the events surrounding the cross, recognising our part in erecting it, then we, sometimes through tears, will discover life in places and people we would not expect to find it: and we will discover hope and new possibilities beyond our imagining.
Image 1 by Clayoquot